Screenshots that are alleged to be taken from a console debug build of Just Cause 3 indicate that the series may be making a move towards in-game microtransactions. These images are by no means confirmed as real, but their source suggests some legitimacy.
Update 11 November: They were real, but Avalanche says the in-game microtransactions are no longer in place. Hooray. This also bodes well for other Square properties like Deus Ex.
Before we get to that, here’s the microtransaction-heavy image:
The point of origin for these images is, as the watermark would suggest, a forum called xbox-underground. User ‘Chr0m3 x MoDz’ posted the relevant thread and states that “These are legitimate screenshots taken from a debug build of the game on Xbox one.”
On his Facebook page, he confirms that xbox-underground is “a new site that me and superDaE are running” and shares some Xbox Development Kit images. MoDz description says that he is “a renowned GTA V, Forza, COD, Xbox 360 modder.” The contents of his twitter feed (like this Battlefront 3 footage from the cancelled title) show that he’s no stranger to leaks, alpha footage and the like.
Unfortunately, the appearance of microtransactions in Just Cause 3 also rings very true. Let’s have another leaked image before explaining why that might be the case:
Just Cause publisher Square Enix is very, very keen on free-to-play and free-to-play-like business models for games. A recent statement to shareholders (which is the stuff you should be reading if you want to know what a publisher really cares about,) contained the following lines:
Sales units of F2P-based games are not physical discs, but rather are in-game items or virtual currency. Therefore, the F2P model is flexible in that earnings are adjustable according to players’ demand without any restriction on distribution of game products … Consequently, the time has come for us game makers to take more flexible approaches in offering games and to devise various earnings models conforming to customers’ game-playing environments, moving away from the limited outlet of disc-based distribution of games. In this current of change, it is extremely important for the HD games category to enable transition from a disc-based earnings model to a more flexible one. This will define the future way we pursue HD games development.
To translate that a little into more familiar terminology; Square Enix want to add a whole lot of free-to-play their “HD” game properties. This is why the new Sleeping Dogs title, Triad Wars, is effectively a free-to-play game rather than a traditional sequel.
And yes, this does mean that anybody who dislikes free-to-play style business models should be concerned about the upcoming Deus Ex (Eidos Montreal, a developer owned by Square Enix) and Hitman (IO Interactive, owned by Square Enix) titles.
Surely though, this is just the big bad publisher Square Enix forcing Just Cause 3 developers Avalanche to do their bidding? After all, Avalanche gave us that amazing Just Cause 2 demo and a magnificent open world game.
Sadly, no, here’s a November 2013 tweet from Avalanche founder Christofer Sundberg. He’s fully on board with all of this.
Micro-Transactions, subscriptions and other biz models will be the next generation of games. It is that simple.
— Christofer Sundberg 🧨 Game dev on a battle-break (@CHSundberg) November 21, 2013
And that is why this bleak microtransaction future for Just Cause 3 looks all too real.